Saturday, June 15, 2024

Ultra Beetle Baja 5B

Ultra Beetle Baja 5B

Being a lifelong race car builder and enthusiast, as soon as the warm spring months roll around I automatically begin to crave the smell of race fuel, the crack of a brutal throttle, and the smell of tire smoke. I have always been a nitro “freak,” and the gradual slowdown of organized nitro events really affected me. I know that most of us love a realistic RC vehicle, and what is more realistic than a vehicle with an engine? I know that nitro is a difficult medium for most modelers to navigate, and it was no surprise the electric vehicles were beginning to really take off.

A friend of mine suggested that I get involved in 1/5-scale vehicles. They have gasoline engines which are very easy to tune and very user friendly. The first 1/5-scale vehicle I got my hands on was an HPI Baja 5B. I was instantly hooked. What could be better? I was able to keep the allure of an engine powered vehicle, while at the same time being introduced to an added degree of realism.

Ultra Beetle Baja 5B

It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with these well-engineered Bajas, a vehicle nearly three feet long is hard to ignore. I also got turned on to the fellows at O’Neill Brothers Racing in Torrance, California. They are among the most noteworthy scale engine modders in the U.S. and abroad.

OBR has a huge following that is well deserved and I jumped on board after my first purchase. After about five or ten engine purchases from OBR we began to develop a nice working relationship. Our goals and ideals were identical. In time we started doing small projects together here and there, mostly little things for our personal projects.

Sean O’Neill, the President of OBR, and his right hand man, Dan Silagy, are totally dedicated to their craft. They have watched the evolution of the large scale scene for over 10 years. In time, we started to notice we had the same tastes in vehicles. We all were huge Baja fans. We all were huge Beetle fans. Unfortunately, for various reasons, the two ingredients were largely incompatible with each other.

Ultra Beetle Baja 5B

I love to evolve new vehicles. Sean and I decided it was time to create what we both wanted, an HPI-based Baja with an ultra-realistic Beetle look. The beetle body we most admired is made by FG, a large scale RC outfit in the UK. The problem, however, was that the base FG vehicle configuration was very different from the base HPI platform. In short, the FG body just didn’t fit the HPI chassis.

With the purchase of a new CNC machining center, I have been developing a line of custom Baja components. One of the most requested is the tubular Baja roll cage upgrade. The tubular cage was the key element in adapting the FG body to the Baja. Sean and I decided we wanted a very light platform that would go well with the highly modded engine he wanted to use. I started with genuine HPI carbon fiber chassis components and began the process of “mocking up” the chassis assembly to locate the body in the correct location. The roll cage was designed and built. The cage is very light and completely unique.

The goal from the beginning was to use the FG mounting locations, as an “uncut” FG Beetle body was not available. This factor, along with the goal of giving the vehicle an ultra low center of gravity, required some re-engineering of the front suspension assembly. Components were either fabricated or modified to achieve that goal.

Ultra Beetle Baja 5B

Normally I do my own paint work, but when a special build is in process I like to enlist the services of Bradley Farmer of Bradley Fine Line Design. Bradley is a humble fellow who does paint and design for some of the biggest names in RC. You can see his artwork on vehicle boxes in the hobby store or on the bodies of race vehicles for the best drivers in professional RC racing. After completing the surgery to mount the Beetle body to the Baja, I sent the body off to Bradley for the paint work.

The day I get a box in the mail from Bradley is always a good day. He always goes above and beyond my expectations, and the Beetle shell proved to be no different. I set the amazing shell aside carefully, anticipating the day I could do the final mounting. While I was working on the core vehicle, Sean and Dan were building a special 30.5CC OBR Reed Case engine, a black and billet aluminum work of art that boasts of nearly 8.5HP. The Reed Case engine owes its existence to the machining skills of David Bowman at Turtle Racing Products and the team at OBR.

I contacted Bishop Racing Products to build a set of ¼-scale sprint car wheels and tires for the Beetle. BRP products are top notch, the four-inch wide rear slicks are very realistic and they are engineered to perform at the highest level.

When all of my fabricating was coming to a close, I received a box in the mail from OBR. The box contained the brutal black and alloy reed engine and a Victory Side Pro pipe. This pipe is Sean O’Neill’s design, and has been dyno-proven to be the best choice for the Baja based engine configurations. With all the pieces in hand, I had the Victory pipe ceramic coated and finished work on the unique clutch cover assembly to house a Turtle Racing clutch system.

Ultra Beetle Baja 5B

I did not rush the assembly process. These vehicles are engineered to perform as well as they look, and Dan at OBR and I are sticklers for suspension tuning. The Beetle chassis setup was carefully dialed in, the body fitted and the final details applied. This will not be the last Beetle to come to life. A sand version is on the drawing board as well as a “basher” all-purpose Baja. Weighing in at under 25 pounds, we can’t wait for the great smell of tire smoke.

HPI, hpiracing.com
Mark “Lil’Mark” Himes/Red Arrow USA, markhimes@frontier.com
O’Neill Brothers Racing, oneillbrothers.com
Bradley Fine Design, http://www.facebook.com/pages.Bradley-Fine-Line-Design/236047929753912.com
Bishop Racing Products, bishopracingproducts.com

Project: Mark Himes
Photos: Mark Himes

One comment

  1. Like your self I to have been a nitro freak and i’ve been toying with the idea of buying a 1/5 scale baja of my own but after reading your project build I’ve finally ordered my own king motor baja.
    I also like the vw bug and was wondering if you could forward me the full parts listing so I can build my own ultra beetle baja coz I’m so in love with yours

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